A world of diverse dishes for Canada Day eating

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      Ask Americans to name a food popular north of the border, and some will invariably reply “Canadian bacon”. But the reality is that Canadian cuisine is comprised of many international and domestic influences.

      In advance of Canada Day, we listed a few of the country’s signature dishes.


      Macaroni and cheese

      Even though so-called comfort foods like macaroni and cheese have relatively recently graduated from kiddie fare in family restaurants (where it always shared menu space with chicken nuggets) to expensive main-course status in hipster eateries, Canadians have always cherished the creamy, warm goodness of the simple yet delicious pasta dish. Proof? The famous Kraft Dinner came out in both the U.S. and Canada in the late 1930s, but Canucks today scarf back 55 percent more “KD”, per capita, than do Americans.

      French Canadian


      What better food symbol of national solidarity exists than a dish undisputedly of Quebec origin (in the 1950s) that gained rapid coast-to-coast popularity? Poutine comes in dozens of varieties now, reflecting a multitude of regional and cultural differences (very Canadian), but the original version showcased only three ingredients: French fries, fresh cheese curds, and a thin chicken gravy.

      Mr. Bannock Indigenous Cuisine



      Although there were many North American precontact versions of the Canadian classic that we now call bannock (or fry bread), Scottish fur traders brought their quick and simple unleavened bread with them to 18th-century Western Canada, where it was often cooked on a flat rock over an open fire. Succeeding Métis generations adopted the staple food—sometimes adding a bit of salt, sugar, or leavening to the basic flour, water, and lard recipe—and it subsequently became almost ubiquitous in First Nations (and settler) communities, often being baked, fried, or deep fried, sometimes with added ingredients like berries or jam.

      West Coast

      Sockeye salmon

      There are five species of Pacific salmon in B.C., but the sockeye (the others being chinook, coho, chum, and pink) truly deserves the designation iconic due to its spectacular annual spawning returns to its natal rivers and lakes, its important economic and historical status as a commercial and recreational quarry, and the rich, sweet, and mild flavour of its healthy and famously red flesh. If anything, it was, and still is, even more important to the West Coast’s Indigenous peoples, coastal and interior, who barbecued, smoked, dried, roasted, boiled, or fermented the seasonal staple.



      B.C. roll

      What was the game changer for sushi in North America? The inside-out California roll, of course, which emerged sometime in the dark ages otherwise known as the 1970s and ‘80s. Although several Los Angeles chefs lay claim to inventing it, so does renowned Vancouver chef Hidekazu Tojo of Tojo’s fame. However, Tojo is definitely credited with creating the Canadian West Coast variation: the B.C. roll, which contains barbecued salmon, cucumber, and sauce. As this one could use a little more widespread love, Canada Day is a good day to start opting for our province’s own claim to maki fame.


      Ginger beef and Newfoundland chow mein

      It’s not just an expression that there’s a Chinese restaurant in every small town imaginable. Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui embarked upon a cross-Canada trip to interview Chinese restaurant owners throughout the country, travelling from Victoria, B.C., to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Fogo Island, Newfoundland. Did you know that ginger beef is a Chinese Canadian dish that arose in Calgary? Or that Newfoundland chow mein uses thinly sliced cabbage instead of egg noodles? Chinese food in Vancouver may have garnered acclaim from international food critics, but to truly learn how much Chinese cuisine is part of Canadian culture, check out Hui’s nonfiction book Chop Suey Nation.



      Butter chicken

      Not only is butter chicken on virtually every Punjabi restaurant menu in the country, this succulent dish is also served in Cactus Club, Urban Fare, and a plethora of other non-Indian establishments. Food Network Canada, Canadian Living, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada all offer recipes on their websites for anyone interested in making it at home.



      Pizza and pasta

      Italians mainly immigrated to Canada in two waves, before the First World War and after the second, and they came mostly from Italy’s rural south, where they had been preparing pasta and pizza for hundreds of years, and the north, which boasts pesto, polenta, risotto, and chicken cacciatore as traditional staples. Today, many more than the 1.6 million Canadians who claim Italian heritage enjoy pizza while watching hockey or feast on pasta and other dishes in Italian restaurants, often in neighbourhoods in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, where the majority of the immigrants settled, opened businesses, and raised families.

      Andrei Kravtsov/Getty



      Go to any celebration by Filipino Canadians and one is surely going to find a noodle dish generally called pancit. It could be pancit bihon, canton, sotanghon, or palabok, or if the host had some more extra time to prepare, a regional variety. This dish is a testament to the deep ties between the Chinese and natives of an Asian archipelago before Spanish colonizers came and named it the Philippines, after their king.


      Chocolate bars and Cheezies

      The next time you’ve got the munchies, why not opt for Canadian junk food to enjoy what your American pals can’t? Consider chocolate bars (not candy bars, as the Yanks call them) like Big Turk, Coffee Crisp, Crispy Crunch, Caramilk, Crunchie, and Mr. Big—as well as Smarties. On the savoury side, ketchup chips are a classic (Doritos Canada even launched limited-edition ketchup tortilla chips this year), and there are also Hostess Hickory Sticks, Miss Vickie’s chips, and Hawkins Cheezies—hard and crunchy, as they were meant to be. And besides Timbits, there are also Jos Louis snack cakes from Quebec’s Vachon that have been around since the 1930s, long enough for the red-velvet trend to come full circle. Break out the serviettes and down it all with a glass of homo milk. In a bag. Before taking off for the washroom (not the restroom).

      The Lazy Gourmet


      Nanaimo bars

      So how do you complete your Canadian meal? Why, with a beaver tail (not the real thing), a slice of Saskatoon berry pie, or pouding chômeur, bien sûr. But be careful—Canadian desserts can make for contentious international political affairs. A kerfuffle arose in March when the New York Times got the ratio of the coconut, chocolate, custard layer, and bottom base incorrect in a recipe for the ever-sacred Nanaimo Bars. Nonetheless, there are numerous variations of the West Coast confection now, such as ones with Irish cream, cappuccino, white chocolate, orange chocolate, or pistachio—and there are even Nanaimo Balls now. So don’t sweat it, you hosers. Gobble it all up to get a sugar high and pass out on your chesterfield to catch a few Zeds.